Little, Brown; Jan 2001, 24.95, 310 pp.
Not quite a century old, Isobel Howard lies dying in a hospital room. Unable to mentally remain or perhaps refusing to stay in the present, Isobel reflects back to the pivotal point in her life, the summer of '36. She relates the drama of that year to her only surviving son who patiently awaits his mother's death.
That summer in Cypress, Minnesota, with her two sons away with their father on his island folly, Isobel and her daughter meets Chicago heiress Cathryn Malley. Cathryn's husband is also away on engineering business. On the bright side, Cathryn provides meaning and identity to Isobel's life beyond that of mother and wife by introducing her to the fine arts. On the other hand, Cathryn begins an affair with Jack Reese in which Isobel plays a reluctant, guilt-ridden middleman. Isobel hides what she knows from Cathryn's spouse who suspects his wife is cheating. Then one day, the lovers vanish as Jack's cabin burns to the ground haunting Isobel till her dying day.
THE GRANITE ISLANDS is a fabulous romantic relationship drama that seems like a well-written throw back to a time when romanticism meant something different. The story line starts a bit choppy, but once the flashbacks to 1936 get into gear, the plot is smooth sailing and worth the time. Fans of powerful emotional women's mainstream fiction with a historical bent will fully enjoy a strong character-based romantic tale that will make debut author Sarah Stonich a household name rather quickly.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner